Monday, 19 February 2018

Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson

Since I'm editing a book set in Dublin in 1035/6, I thought I should maybe offer some factual information for the reader who wants to know the history behind the book to be published soon as VIKING SUMMER.

Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson actually existed. He glories in having several spellings of his name depending which source you read; he can be Sihtric, Sitric and Sitrick in Irish texts; or Sigtryg and Sigtryggr in Scandinavian texts. There were two Sitrics before him in the family tree and one of his sons was also named Sitric, so reading histories of the time can be confusing. As the Hiberno-Norse king of Dublin of the Uí Ímair dynasty, his dates are complicated too. He ruled - and these dates are the best I can glean from the different reports - AD 989–994, then again AD 995–1000; and restored once more in AD 1000 and abdicated 1036. Adding all that time together, he ruled for 46 years, which was no mean feat at the time.

He conducted a long series of raids into territories such as Meath, Wicklow, Ulster, and perhaps even the coast of Wales. He also came into conflict with rival Norse kings, especially in Cork and Waterford. 

He went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1028 and is associated with the foundation of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin and would have called himself a Christian, but that didn't stop him executing and blinding his enemies. 

His father was Olaf Cuaran, King of York and his mother the infamous Gormflaith ingen Murchada of Munster. They married in AD 972, and Sigtrygg was born around AD 974. He married Emer, daughter of Brian Boru, when he was 24 and forced her to watch the Battle of Clontarf with him from his fortress. It was the battle in which her father Boru died. They had 5 sons, who all died before Sigtrygg. He seems to have been related to almost every famous family of the time - his sister Gyda married Olaf Tryggvasson, who died in 1000. Their son was killed by Canute's son, Sveinn in 1033 in Norway. Sigtrygg's son Olaf married Slaine, daughter of Boru - though some reports have Slaine as Sigtrygg's wife. 

With English blood from his paternal grandmother, Eadgth, Alfred's grandaughter;  Irish blood from Murchadh, King of Leinster, his maternal grandfather, the mix was complete with his Norse bloodline reaching back to his great great grandfather Ivarr the Boneless. He abdicated in 1036, and died in 1042 

Marriages were repudiated seemingly at will, and Gormflaith, in spite of her famed beauty, was repudiated twice. Not only did Sigtrygg marry Boru's daughter, but Brian's third wife was none other than Gormflaith.  It is rumoured that Brian had four wives and thirty concubines and though Gormflaith gave him a son, it is doubtful that she was ever truly married to him.

Interesting scraps of information I found was that in the year 1000 AD, the temperature was 2-4 degrees higher than now. Population was so much less than now: in 1066 England had a population of 2-3 million, Ireland just under 1 million and Scotland and Wales a little over half a million. 

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


First edit done, second under way and I'm thinking about a cover. Here's a snippet from what I think will now be called VIKING SUMMER. The story begins on the west coast of Scotland in 1036 AD and Eilidh's brother Domnall has just been caught stealing cattle. Finlay, as the newly crowned King of Alba (read ALBA IS MINE) and his good friend Hareth, confront him. They are part of the story, but the main protagonist in this story is Eilidh and her adventures.

"Four days later I stood in the hearth-hall with anxiety churning my stomach as my brother's familiar figure strode towards me. Unshaven, muddy and with his pale brown curls like a nimbus around his sunburned face, he frowned as he noted Bundalloch men loitering around the hall when they should have been at work in the fields and barns. His gaze came to me, questioning; then he saw the strangers beside me. His stride slowed and his frown deepened.

My hands gripped together beneath my breastbone. The King of Alba stood silent at my side. His unexpected arrival had brought women running into the dairy to tell me of the huge Viking longship approaching the jetty. I had stared at the tall, attractive man stalking ashore as if he owned Bundalloch. When I saw the gold circlet of kingship at his brow, I realised he did indeed own it and knew we were in trouble.

His dark good looks, self-confidence and the size of his entourage initially unnerved me, but pride came to my rescue. My gown might be plain, my apron spattered with milk and my hair unadorned, but until Domnall married, I was the lady of Bundalloch and knew my duties. Hurrying forward, I greeted the king and stuttered a welcome. He had smiled, dispersed his men around Bundalloch, and walked into the hearth-hall without having received an invitation from me.

Beside me the King of Alba dropped into the thane of Bundalloch's chair and made himself comfortable. The storm cloud gathered on Domnall’s face as Leod and their companions filtered into place behind him. Then, collecting himself, he took a quick breath, bent his head and forced out a sentence of stilted politeness. “I trust my sister has offered food and drink, Your Grace?”
My nails dug into my palms. Of course I had. Did he think I was stupid?

“We heard you’ve been away on business,” the king said in a surprisingly deep voice. “To do with cattle, I think?”
Stiff as a pine, his fists clenched hard against his thighs, my brother said, “The beasts wander too far and must be brought back.”

A flood of sunlight lit the hall as the doors burst open to admit a vibrant young man with chestnut hair who strode across the rough earthen floor. “You've been raiding, Domnall,” he called out in a cheerful voice. “We've seen the beasts and watched you at work.” 

Friday, 9 February 2018

A lifetime of words

When I was a teenager I used to take a handwritten or hand-typed copy of pieces of literature that struck a chord with me. I did it as a child, too, but didn't keep those pieces. The teenage years are in a ring-binder and I found it at the back of a cupboard the other day. I had copied Kathleen Raine, Ted Hughes, Kalil Gibran, Seamus Heaney, e e cummings, Charles beatty and lots of others. Even a smidgen of Wordsworth, but probably not the one everyone knows -

For why? Because the good old rule
Sufficeth them; the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
and they should keep who can.

There are odd snippets like this one by someone called Tamburas:
Stand still, O Time.
I shall never know why,
You white wall, I love you
Like a woman I never saw before.
The blue of the sky reflects the Nile.

I love you, Men-nefru,
For in the magic of your streets
And in the orange-coloured moon
Of your night
Dwells the breath of the gods.

From poetry I ventured into prose and there are chunks from T H White, Rosemary Sutcliff, and an author I have noted down as M Savage. From there I deviated into all sorts of odd things - the breeding line of Nijinsky and Mill Reef, for example and scrapbooks on the JFK assassination, and Nureyev's defection to the west. Some of this collection stemmed from the fact that I worked in ICI where several daily papers and magazines were received and processed into the library - if I saw anything interesting I could snip it (once the item had ben processed) and read or copy it at my leisure. Reading through the pieces I kept still gives me pleasure today, but I'm mot sure that I still have those scrapbooks, but it is possible. Maybe I'll turn into a hoarder in later life!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Are e-books priced too high?

David Naggar, Amazon’s publishing chief, says a price of 99p sells more books.

Self-published authors  regularly sell  their work on Amazon for 99p  
Faced with two book by unknown authors which cost £9.99 and £2.99 respectively, which do you think most people would pick? 

Trad publishers find this "economically unwise"  because their business models are quite different. Indie authors sell at 99p via the Kindle platform and earn a royalty of between 35-70% of the retail price. Trad published authors earn 25% on e-books. 

Amazon has around 90% share of the ebook market in the UK according to the Publishers Association and according to them sales of trade ebooks fell by 17% in 2016 to £204 million.

One publisher (Alessandro Gallenzi) argues that nurturing authors requires a long term investment and cheap prices damage authors by devaluing and homogenising their work.
Matthew Lynn is the CEO of Endeavour Press and thinks that the market dictates the price, that e books are overpriced and £1.99 is a better price than 99p - though it does depend on genre.
"Digital and print books serve different audiences," he says..."cheaper ebooks are enhancing sales."

Evidently an Amazon spokes person has said that Naggar's comments had been intended to illustrate and example of KDP tactics to drive discovery for new authors. 

September 4, 2017 by Natasha Onwuemezi and Katherine Cowdrey

Monday, 29 January 2018


Like the lady on Facebook this morning who sent out a plea for chocolate because she is editing, I feel the same way. Fascinating as it is to see one's own goofs and gaffes, editing soon becomes a chore. I'm up to Chapter 8, so there's a fair way to go. 

My routine goes like this  ~  Print out 10 pages, check, make the corrections, print another 10. I may be doing this for quite a while.It will be interesting to see how much the word count drops in this first edit. I have no plans to cut specific chunks; if the 128K length reduces, it will be a natural editing process.

Meanwhile I am keeping an ear to the ground on the sexual harrassment argument which has now ventured into odd waters. Some female on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, whose name I had never heard of and instantly forgot, said that women should not be decorative items for male enjoyment. This has all arisen from the Presidents Club evening that aroused such a storm of protest, claiming that women were groped and made to wear provocative dresses. Now, I wasn't there, and I don't know anyone who was. My knowledge of that event is all hearsay. At first glance the claim seems valid - women should not be groped and certainly not harassed or assaulted. 

But then one begins to wonder how far this goes. What frightens and upsets one woman may be flirtation or livelihood to another. I began to think of all the females who pose semi-nude in glossy magazines, who adorn huge posters on hoardings and on buses, in their underwear. They make a lot of money by doing so and become celebrities. They turn up at sporting events such as the Tour de France, Formula 1 and darts, to name but a few. What about cheer leaders? What about ball girls in tennis wearing skirts so short we can see the curve of their cheeks while ball boys wear sensible knee length shorts? Book covers frequently sport sexily clad females. The pop world so beloved of many has been semi-pornographic for years and I’m only surprised that no tales of sexual harassment has come out of that world as yet. The school girls these days wear pelmets instead of skirts and no one is making them do it. Some females enjoy "showing off their assets" and demand attention in this way. Watch anything on the box and there will be the female showing lots of bare skin and huge amounts of thigh. Advertising would collapse without sexily-dressed women to promote the goods. The thing is the attention comes sometimes in a way that some women don’t like and it is not always directed at the one who wants it.

I don’t know how this problem is going to be sorted, if it ever is.

Monday, 22 January 2018

An excerpt....

"The room was small. The soft glow of a six-armed candelabrum shone on the wood panelling, gleamed on the pewter utensils on the side table and bounced off the gleaming gold crucifix nailed to the wall. A woman sang as she rocked the carved wooden cradle to pacify the child within. Matho released the breath he had been holding, and thanked the Lord that she sat with her back to him.
Unlike the plump, matronly servants who cared for the Carnaby children, this one wore a flimsy white nightdress with soft folds bunched and tangled around her slender feet. A crimson and gold embroidered shawl hugged her shoulders. Thick, glossy hair hung down her spine, and candlelight sparked on the jewelled pin caught in its strands. When she lifted her hand, a large purple jewel flashed in the flickering light.
Did they recruit maids from the nobility these days? Fingers, pink and tiny as a bird’s foot, waved above the cradle and plucked at the woman’s hand. Delight quivered in her voice as she sang.
Matho’s throat ached.
Christ! Harry would think him a soft-hearted beggar. He eased back from the doorway, aware that any sudden movement would betray him. Once safely in the corridor, he rested his shoulders against the cold plaster wall, blinked and swallowed the lump that threatened to fill his throat.
Harry, puzzled, watched him.
Matho shook his head, and jerked his thumb in the direction of the nursery."

The snippet above  is from Abduction of the Scots Queen, out in both paperback and Kindle. The house was supposedly once Darnley's house in Stirling.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

E-book claims

The Publishing Association show that sales of consumer ebooks have dropped by 17%, while sales of physical books are up 8%. Consumer spending on books was up £89m across the board last year, compared with 2015. 

Paula Cocozza wrote a fairly long article about this back in April 2017 asking So why is the physical book winning through? I read it with interest and then found this statement:

The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.

I looked back at th earlier figure: ebooks have dropped by 17%  and wondered how to match the two statements in my mind.

“It’s not about the death of ebooks,” Daunt says. (James Daunt of Waterstone) “It’s about ebooks finding their natural level. Even in the years when ebook sales were rising greatly – and clearly cannibalising physical book sales – it was always very clear that we would have a correction and reach an equilibrium.” The UK, he says, has “adopted” ebooks and they will remain a substantial market (while in France, for instance, ebooks are only 3% of the overall market). The last thing he – or any seller or publisher of physical books – wants is the death of the ebook. “We want people to read. We don’t mind how they read,” he stresses. He knows that people who read, sooner or later, will buy books.

Perhaps you'll be able to explain to me how those two claims match together.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Scared of Amazon

Selected a wonderful list of books yesterday in anticipation of spending my gift token. Chose nine titles all from awesome books at 0.35 pence each, hopped over to checkout and stopped short. The total cost of the books was something like £3.50 - but the postage and packing charge was £28.00! 

Telling myself it was too good to be true (to get  so many titles for so little) I went away shaking my head. They were all paperback, all from the same second-hand dealer in the UK and couldn't possibly have cost that much to post them all together.

Anyway, I declined to spend that much on postage.

Now I'm looking more carefully at each screen as I go. For me Amazon seems to be a minefield. Last time I remember their system swallowed my gift card and gave me nothing in return. (I did get it all sorted out, but it makes me wary. A couple of years ago I found I had somehow selected Amazon Prime and £79 had gone from my bank account. I did not and still don't want Amazon Prime, but their screens are so trickily worded and set out that it is easy to fall into the trap. DH fell into it a year or so later. Again, we both got everything sorted and money returned, but this sort of happening does make one wary. DH wont use Amazon any more. I use it, but in fear and trembling!

Wish me luck as I try to spend my gift wisely!

Since we have snow, wind and cold temperatures forecast for my area today I've been up and walked Tim so we can now hunker down in a warm house for a few hours and see what happens. Forecasts don't always come true, but I went looking for snow pictures and found this, taken in Zermatt in 2009 when we were perched on the top of the Kleine Matterhorn in sub-zero temperatures at something like 12-13,000 feet.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

A trip out

I may just re-charge my ipad and spend the rest of the day reading this thread on Twitter. What a hoot! Best thing in a long while.

In spite of today being Saturday we took a trip out to Wallington, a National Trust place not far away. It's a while since we've been there, and both self and DH had to think really hard to remember the way to get there! It's somewhere we've been hundreds of times and of course once we remembered that it is off the A68 we wondered how we could have forgotten. I guess this is one of the signs of how much information we are obliged to cram into our minds these days. Perhaps my shelves are getting full and need weeding!


There is a whole new layout for the car park which seems to have increased at least threefold in our absence. There is also a 6-mile cycle track which we blithely assumed accommodated dog walkers as well (luckily we were correct!) and so we walked for a good hour or so through fields and woods and met only one other dog walking couple - and they were 200 yards ahead of us where the tracks converged. After doing that we didnt need to follow the crowds into the courtyard or the shop or the house; nor the walled garden either. We'll save those things for a weekday when it will be less crowded. But it was nice to go back.

As a rule I'm not overkeen on sharing bridlepaths and footpaths with cyclists as so often they are used by hulking men who hurtle by without warning and expect me and my on-lead dog to get out of their way. The family groups and the "gentle" riders I have no issues with; it is the lycra clad, crash helmeted 15 stoners who ride at 30-40 miles an hour without use of bell or voice as warning. Do they not realise that the noise they create is behind them? If they do not alert us that they are going to overtake, we do not know that they are behind us.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

More travel woes

Remember my stories of  our relatives travel woes during a journey from Australia for Christmas? Well, they were among the 13,000 tourists stuck in Zermat yesterday with all road and rail links closed by 1.60 metres of snow. (Bearing in mind that I'm only 1.65 metres, that seems a awful lot of snow!) We feared that their onward flight back home to Sydney would be missed in the chaos.

However these members of the Black family are nothing if not resourceful. Last night we received  news that they were safe in Zurich, having got a helicopter flight from Zermatt to Tasch where they picked up their booked hire car and drove to Zurich. This morning they should be on their way to Helsinki and from there back to Australia. 

I wonder if they'll venture this way ever again?

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Mad world

Has the world gone mad? I noticed an article  in the newspapers that made me think so. The headline claims Prince Charming is a sex-offender. Yes, that's right. Even fairy tales are now under the microscope and declared wanting.

 Check out the full article Here

Kazue Muta, a professor at Osaka University has reportedly claimed that certain fairytale princes are less about romance and instead perform "quasi-compulsive obscene sexual acts on an unconscious partner". 

I might have thought the professor was joking, presenting an argument that would bring her a little publicity but when I saw the title of one of her other books, I abandoned that idea ~ Boss, That Love is Sexual Harassment! 

The article is sketchy to say the least.  I glanced at the first few comments and could not help a smile. "Next time Prince Charming sees a damsel in distress he should let her rot," says one, and you can see why. Why are (some) women so keen on men bashing these days? 

It seems that (some) women are keen to break down the male/female roles that have existed for centuries, forgetting that other women are more than happy with the way things are. 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

A new beginning, or An overhaul

If you are like me, you write a profile biog to Facebook or Twitter and promptly forget about it. The same goes for book blurbs on my blog, not to mention cover photos that ought to have been updated. Something I read on Facebook yesterday jabbed at my (guilty) conscience and partly because it was New Year's Day, I looked at some of the old information about myself and my books and quickly decided it needed up- dating.

It is such a quiet time of year now that the festivities are over and guests have gone on to other countries that it is a good time to reconsider how I present myself. Unfortunately while I have gained in writing experience over the last decade, and learned various ways of attempting PR, I have also gained a few more lines and wrinkles than I used to have, so I am not so keen on putting up new photographs of myself unless I go for the misty, half veiled approach - which might work!

They (those pundits who know so much about these things) keep telling me that paper books are on the rise again, and certainly my e-book sales have slowed this year. It is hard to get a definitive view of what is really happening with so many conflicting reports from journalists and the various publishing and book bodies out there. I often wish I had started  writing a lot earlier than I did, but I can't change that. I enjoy what I do, so I'll keep on doing it,and try to be a little more pro-active with my PR stuff. I'm fit and healthy as we embark on 2018 and the only thing that gets between me and my writing is the time I spend with my husband and my dog. Oh, and Facebook. And Twitter. And probably a few other things I've forgotten....

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Saga continued

Our guests were due to leave us for Italy on Friday 29th. As of Thursday night at ten minutes to midnight, the two missing cases were delivered to our doorstep. As someone said dryly "Made the delivery inside three days, but only just. Now they don't have to pay compensation." True, except they are going to get a claim for a very expensive suitcase - the only one to arrive when they did - which was "damaged beyond repair " and has gone off to Italy sealed up with strong duct tape.

Snow arrived here on Friday on purpose to complicate matters further. The snow fell lightly as they left our drive in convoy to return the hire car to Team Valley and then the three of them, three suitcases and a pushchair all squeezed in with DH for the trip to the airport. By the time DH came home the snow was lying and making the hills very skiddy. Since we live on the side of a hill, it was a bit of a concern, but he made it safely. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief but then came the news that their flight to Heath Row was delayed - would they make the connection to Italy?

Everything flew, if a little later than scheduled, and they finally arrived at their hotel in Bologna at 2am. It's enough to put one off flying at Christmas ever again!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The saga of the missing cases

Continuing the saga of our guests and their journey - they finally arrived here on Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve - with only one case.  I think they spent 32 hours on planes all told. Not a journey they want to repeat anytime soon.

Only one of them has any clothes to change into. This morning we've borrowed a jacket for  the grandson so he can go outside, and one of my coats has come into service for his mother. the two cases containing their gear and everyone's clothes for the skiing trip they  will be enjoying in a couple of days time - they are "coming by taxi" from Manchester airport. I've lost count of how many times we've been told that. They were to arrive during Christmas day evening, but we're still waiting. I'm on duty at home in case they arrive (sorry, no pun intended!) while the family have gone off to visit the old home town of Durham.

Monday, 25 December 2017

We're ready

We were expecting to pick up guests from Australia  at Newcastle airport yesterday around midday, but Christmas travel can be so fraught. After a 14 hour flight from Sydney their plane circled Dubai about six times bfore the pilots decided they were running out of fuel and landed at Al Ain airport in the desert about 113 miles away. Unbelievably, fog had closed Dubai down. No one was allowed off the plane so they sat there for another 9 hours before being taken to Dubai and a hotel and then boarded  a plane around 2am and arrived in Manchester around 7am

 Their luggage, of course, had gone missing by then. but they were promised that their cases would arrive on the next flight into Mancester at 11am. They waited. One case arrived. Two are still wandering somewhere between Manchester and Dubai. Our guests (2 adults and a 3 year old grandson are) on ther way north in a hired car.
What a journey - and it isn't over yet. We can't drown out sorrows - or theirs - because we need to be sober enough to drive to Newcastle airport to pick them up when they turn in the hired car.

So we're celebrating everything a day later than usual.  Happy Christmas!